PREVENTIVE MEASURES DURING PREGNANCYMonday, April 20, 2009 12:33
Although the baby in the womb is nourished by the mother’s blood, the blood of mother and baby do not mix. Instead, they both pass through tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the structure known as the placenta. The capillaries carrying the mother’s blood lie directly alongside those carrying the baby’s blood, and vital substances such as glucose and oxygen can pass from one to the other through the capillary walls. It used to be thought that larger molecules, such as undigested food proteins, would not be able to get through, but it is now known that they do. Such food molecules could sensitize a high-risk baby even before it is born.
In the light of this discovery, some doctors believe that women whose children are likely to be atopic should restrict their diet during pregnancy. However, the few studies that have attempted to test this idea have produced largely negative results. Given the difficulty of eating a restricted diet during pregnancy it is probably not worth doing so for such uncertain gains. But anyone who is concerned about allergies in their children – having had one severely allergic child already, perhaps – could omit certain foods that are highly allergenic. The list should include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, fish and wheat, plus any foods to which the earlier child is allergic. It is, of course, essential that you consult your doctor to ensure that you are getting enough nutrients. A calcium supplement will probably be required.
The more of a food that is eaten, the more passes into the bloodstream. So eating huge quantities of one type of food during pregnancy is probably bad for the unborn child who may be predisposed to allergy. There have been no scientific tests to prove this, but not ‘bingeing’ during pregnancy, or while breast-feeding, would seem to be a sensible preventive measure.
Smoking during pregnancy has been shown to increase the risk of allergy, quite apart from its other damaging effects on the foetus. It is advisable to give up well before conception, and to maintain a smoke-free house once the baby is born – see next section. Putting on excess weight during pregnancy is also a risk factor for allergy in the child.
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